What Is the Function of Hyaline Cartilage?

Andrew Kirmayer

Hyaline cartilage is a type of connective tissue which is typically flexible and whitish-blue in color. Generally found in the nose, larynx, wind pipe, and bronchial tubes leading to the lungs, it is made up of mostly a gel-like substance called collagen and a fibrous structure, or matrix, which normally encloses the biological cells. This matrix is mostly composed of proteins and water. Usually the function of hyaline cartilage enables it to withstand both pulling and compressive forces from bone movement.

Hyaline cartilage connects the ribs to the sternum.
Hyaline cartilage connects the ribs to the sternum.

The function of hyaline cartilage is also normally to support the movable joints between bones, as well as the connections between the ribs and the breast bone, or sternum. Usually supporting the physical structure of an embryo before bones form, the cartilage is also normally where bones grow in length. Like other types of cartilage, it does not usually regenerate, or repair, as quickly as other tissues. There are no blood vessels passing through, so the cartilage typically relies on nutrients and oxygen that diffuse out of other tissues.

Hyaline cartilage can be found in the larynx.
Hyaline cartilage can be found in the larynx.

Cells called chondrocytes typically contribute to the functioning of hyaline cartilage, and can secrete fibers and other substances that are part of the material in between them. Spaces between the cells, called lacunae, develop as the surrounding matrix grows. The chondrocytes can develop by adding to the components of the cartilage, secreting certain necessary compounds. They can also undergo growth in which cellular division called mitosis takes place inside the cartilage.

Another layer of connective tissue, called a perichondrium, normally helps support the function of hyaline cartilage. A layer of fibers and a layer of cells are usually located within this structure. These cells divide and also differentiate as they form within the perichondrium, which is also usually where cartilage grows. When hyaline cartilage is damaged, chondrocytes can turn into other types of cells, called chondroblasts, which can deposit materials on the surface that get added to the overall structure.

Other types of cartilage include elastic, which typically has dense fibers and abundant collagen. Elastic cartilage is often found in the larynx, outer part of the ear, inside the auditory canal, and in the eustachian tube between the middle ear and the throat. The living cells in fibrocartilage are usually located in between dense collagen fibers. This kind of cartilage is usually found in between spinal discs, in the knee, and where tendons and ligaments connect to bone. It normally works similar to the function of hyaline cartilage, which is generally the most common type in the body.

Hyaline cartilage appears on the ends of bones where they form joints.
Hyaline cartilage appears on the ends of bones where they form joints.

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Discussion Comments


Hyaline cartilage helps us breathe, too. I remember learning that there are rings of hyaline cartilage all along the trachea. They keep it open while we are inhaling and exhaling so that it doesn't just collapse.


It sounds like the body is well adapted to dealing with damage to hyaline cartilage. The perichondrium and chondroblasts have got it covered.


@OeKc05 – The nose has hyaline cartilage in it. My sister got a nose job, and the plastic surgeon had to rearrange her hyaline cartilage and bones to give her nose a new shape.

He had to make cuts in her skin in order to lift it away from the cartilage and bones. Basically, he broke the bones to be able to manipulate them.

I just don't think that I could deal with anyone breaking my nose and messing with my cartilage. It just seems wrong to break something that is in working order!


I really had no idea that there were different types of cartilage in the body. I figured that cartilage was cartilage!

What kind of cartilage is present in the nose? This is the kind that I've heard the most about.

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